President Donald Trump pulled no punches in his gibe-filled remarks at the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington on Saturday, joking about his top aides and opponents alike to the journalists and lawmakers in attendance.
Even son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was not spared a roasting. The president opened his comments by mocking the recent downgrading of Kushner’s security clearance.
“Before I get started, I wanted to apologize for arriving a little bit late,” Trump began, according to pool reporters. “You know, we’re late tonight because Jared could not get through the security.”
Trump, who’d turned down an invitation to attend the annual event last year, went on to rib several other members of his administration — both current and former. He said former aide Steve Bannon spoke too much to the press, and “leaked more than the Titanic.” He referred to Vice President Mike Pence as his “apprentice.” And he joked that he’d offered a ride to Jeff Sessions, but the attorney general had “recused himself.”
The president also told a joke about his wife, Melania, who was in attendance.
“So many people have been leaving the White House. It’s invigorating since you want turnover. I like chaos. It really is good. Who’s going to be the next to leave ― [aide] Steve Miller or Melania?” Trump said.
“That’s terrible. But you love me right, honey?”
The quip was met with “gasps from the audience,” according to NPR.
In a nod to his penchant for over-the-top praise of his accomplishments, Trump said, “My staff was concerned that I couldn’t do self-deprecating humor. And I told them not to worry, nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do.”
At the closed-door event, where filming was prohibited, Trump also discussed more somber issues like North Korea, saying he was open to direct talks with its leader, Kim Jong Un.
But he also quipped: “As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that’s his problem, not mine.”
He needled Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, who he called “crazy” (but also “a fine woman”).
Noting that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) regularly calls for his impeachment, Trump said, “And I say — and I get in trouble for this — ‘she has to immediately take an IQ test,’ and people go crazy.”
The taunt has been criticized as “racist.”
Trump also took aim at one of his favorite targets: the press, who he described as his “opposition party.” The president told the journalists in the room that he wanted to “ruin your evening in person.”
Trump, who has been openly hostile toward the press since taking office, earlier in the day posted a tweet lambasting the “crazy” mainstream media.